No. 309
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Bowie)

top secret


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Merchant
  • Mr. Bowie
  • Mr. Eden
  • Mr. Caccia
  • Mr. Allen
  • Mr. Campbell, Acting New Zealand High Commissioner
  • Mr. Coner


  • Discussion at Mr. Eden’s Flat Tonight, 7:00 p.m.

Mr. Dulles opened the conversation by stating that we were concerned about the danger of an outbreak of hostilities in the Far East arising from Chinese Communist attacks on Quemoy, in view of the U.S. commitment to defend Formosa and the Pescadores. He explained the views of our Defense advisers regarding the relation of Quemoy and the Tachen Islands to the defense of Formosa. He said that Mr. Eden and he had been consulting about the situation during the last two weeks and that both had concluded that it would be appropriate to bring the matter before the Security Council with a view to maintaining the status quo, which might lead to further steps to pacify the area. If the situation were not stabilized, we might face the choice of either fighting to defend these islands against Chinese Communist attack or accepting their loss with the [Page 668] resulting danger to free world prestige and to the security of Formosa.

Since New Zealand was on the Security Council and interested in the area, we had thought that it might be disposed to ask the Security Council to take provisional measures to maintain the status quo. After considering action under Chapter VI and VII we had concluded that Chapter VI would have the advantages of avoiding the issue of aggression which could raise difficult problems in relation to the offshore islands and also the risk of veto by the parties. The Secretary then read and later delivered to the New Zealand High Commissioner the attached memorandum1 of his views.

Mr. Eden said that he thought that the proposed course was an admirable one and constituted wise statemanship since otherwise the situation would involve very grave danger.

The High Commissioner said that he would report to his government at once and asked what timetable was contemplated.

The Secretary said that it was important to plan as rapidly as possible inasmuch as an attack on Quemoy or the Tachen might happen at any time. In answer to a question, Mr. Eden said that it was our hope that the Chinese Communists would be invited to present their views to the Security Council. Mr. Coner suggested that Quemoy was probably not defensible except by direct attack against the mainland; the Secretary confirmed that this was the view of our military advisers. When asked how far we might be prepared to go if the proceeding raised broader questions, the Secretary replied that he realized that this might occur; while Formosa would not be abandoned it might ultimately be separated from the mainland. He also recognized that, while the parties would not be free to veto, the Soviets might; but if the effort failed, we were no worse off than we are now.

The High Commissioner said that he should be able to get an answer quickly despite the absorption of the Ministers in the end of the Parliamentary session and the pending elections. Mr. Eden urged him to recommend to his government that it do whatever was possible in view of the grim alternatives. Jokingly, he suggested that if he were asked for advice he would recommend this action as a splendid election issue.

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It was agreed that if an agreement in principle could be obtained (if possible while the Secretary was here), the papers could then be prepared in 3 or 4 days either at the UN in New York or at Washington.

Mr. Dulles stressed the great importance of strict security until the action was taken, and the High Commissioner assured him that this would be the case.

  1. Not attached to the source text, but quoted in Dulte 9 from London, Sept. 29. The memorandum stated that it seemed desirable to submit the matter of the offshore islands to the Security Council “with a view to obtaining Security Council recommendation that military activities against these islands and in their defense should be provisionally suspended”, and that if New Zealand were disposed to act, the United Kingdom and the United States would “look favorably upon such action.” (793.00/9–2954)